You Don’t Need Writing Motivation — You Need a Writing System
I’m a big fan of figures. They help to explain complex issues in a simple manner. And that’s exactly what I want to do with this article — share my most recent insights about writing and systems with the help of figures.
A Messy Path
About one year ago, I decided to start a blog. I wanted to make sense of my random thoughts and was excited to share my ideas with the world.
Naive as I was, I bought a domain — ok, three(I didn’t like the first two). I started a small WordPress blog and hoped that people would come to my site.
Obviously, that didn’t work out. Almost no one visited my little blog.
“That’s no problem at all,” I told myself. If people don’t come to me, I will go to them. I realized that I needed to get active on a bigger internet platform, like this one.
After I binged hundred of articles, I subscribed to the premium service and eventually decided to publish my first article.
I followed some amazing people, found interesting publications, and published more articles. Every once in a while, I checked my stats (all 20 minutes, cough).
However, after a few days of following, commenting, and writing, I felt overwhelmed. I was paralyzed by the massive amount of opportunities this platform has to offer. There are just too many good articles, marketing hacks, and writing tips for one person to ever read or
Nevertheless, I wanted to make it work — so I kept running without any particular goal. I had no clue what I was doing, let alone a clear plan.
Fortunately, I remembered an amazing quote from productivity expert James Clear:
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Quite a statement to think about.
Imagine you want to take control of your finances. So far so good, that’s your goal. But how do you achieve that goal?
Now, that’s where a good system comes into play; you could, for example, automatically transfer 10% of your salary to a separate account every single month. That’s already a system — even though a very simple one.
A system is anything that has “a set of detailed methods, procedures, and routines created to carry out a specific activity or solve a problem.”
Based on this definition, a system could be:
- A reusable checklist you use every time before publishing an article
- A simple diagram breaking down your monthly marketing strategy
A system translates your lofty goals into the real world by defining clear and repeatable steps. It forms the missing link between your daily to-do items and long-term goals.
Now, back to my writing journey. Did I follow any system?
Obviously not. My random actions looked more like a treasure map than an effective system.
I didn’t think systematically at all. I took one random step after the other, without understanding the overall process. I was thinking in a linear way.
But what’s so special about systems thinking?
Let’s listen to the words of internet legend Neil Patel:
“Average marketers think in campaigns. They work all week, push out a campaign, then start again from scratch next week. That will only take you so far. To get to the next level, you need to start thinking in systems and build a marketing machine. This is the only way to 10x your growth and then 10x it again.”
A system gives you accountability and focus. It tells you what needs to be done, for how long, and in which order.
This kind of safety net is crucial in a world full of information overload where the next random thought is just one click away.
And here’s the best thing: once you have a simple system in place, you can improve it, one step at a time. You’ll be able to rationally analyze and tweak your process until you get your desired results.
Just Do It
You want to become a writer — I get it.
But if you want to become a successful writer, being a writing virtuoso isn’t enough. You also need to focus on marketing, automation, customer support, and content strategy — at least.
If you want to master any of the latter, you need to create systems.
“Becoming a member of the new rich is not just about working smarter. It’s about building a system to replace yourself.” — Tim Ferriss
Bob the Builder
Enough theory. You want to see my system, I know. So let’s get straight into it.
Every system needs a reason to exist. A reason to live. A goal. In my case, my system has three goals:
- Constant improvement of my writing
- Monthly growth of readers and subscribers
- Finding business niches worth pursuing
Most of the time, we tend to focus on stuff that doesn’t matter, like checking our stats 47 times a day. Our actions aren’t aligned with their goals.
To avoid this problem, I asked myself a simple question: What gets me actual results? Which activities bring real value?
The answer to this question eventually led me to my system:
Basically, my first version of my system focuses on writing, experimentation, analytics, SEO, social media, and automation.
And it all starts quite harmlessly — with a weekly article. This is where most of the value lies. An article leads to clicks, views, subscribers, validation of ideas, and eventually sales.
In that process, I realized another important thing: Every article is a new experiment. Every article offers a new opportunity to find and validate a new business idea, be it freelancing, an information product, or even a software business. Writing is still the most powerful thing on the internet, and a lot of successful businesses have been validated with simple text.
This article, for example, validates that writers like the idea of systems thinking. As you can see, this blog post is already a part of my system!
Another crucial aspect of a good system is feedback. You need to know at any time if your system is working fine. From a writer’s perspective, this means knowing whether people like your stuff. Therefore, I try to check out my stats on Google Analytics, Medium, Quora, and Mailchimp once a week. That’s enough. These stats help me to improve my system in the future.
Once I wrote my weekly blog post, it’s time to amplify its reach. I repost my blog post on Medium (preferably in a publication), Twitter, Quora, and in my bi-weekly newsletter. Everything is as automated as possible. Additionally, I created a simple SEO-checklist I apply for every new blog post.
Last but not least, let’s not forget about the power of platforms. I try to answer two or three questions on Quora every week. And of course, I’m active on here to get in contact with like-minded people and simply to get inspired.
So that’s it. That’s my system. No magic here.
I’m aware that my system can be improved a lot. I could sharpen my writing process, or I could automate more of my SEO activities. But there’s a time and place for everything.
Systems expert John Gall stated it like this:
“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a simple working system.”
In the next few months, I will stick to my boring system. I have even hung it on my fridge:
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not intending to be a robot who is automating his whole life.
I’m still on a writer’s journey. I’m here to experience a sense of magic.
But that being said, I’m not interested in relying on inspiration, motivation, and hustle alone. I know myself well enough to realize that I’m not able to pull it off that way.
Instead, I have built a simple machine that takes me to my desired destination with more control and less effort.